H&F cycling: a guide for newbies
As lockdown eases and more of us venture out, rather than get back into our cars, why not get on your bike? After all, it’s better for the environment, better for traffic, better for our health, and the more popular city cycling becomes, the more chance there is that this could become part of the new post-Covid landscape.
Many of us have taken to our bikes during lockdown, as a way to keep fit and get about, enjoying the quiet streets free from cars and traffic. As more cars head back onto the road, some of us may be a little nervous about riding in traffic, but there’s no need to be deterred.
Get bike ready
Charlie Cooper, a Fulham resident and owner of Cooper Bikes, shares a few tips for new or less confident cyclists on how to get started.
Make sure your bike is safe and fit for purpose. Check your tyres, tension and brakes. You can get it serviced by a bike shop or expert.
Get a helmet. While not mandatory, if you’re new to cycling or plan to ride a lot, then a helmet is a worthwhile safety investment. Make sure it’s new and fits snugly.
Ensure you can be seen by traffic by wearing clothes that are visible, bright or reflective.
Wear something comfortable. That doesn’t necessarily mean Lycra, but clothes that are loose enough to allow movement. For longer distances, invest in a pair of bib shorts or padded shorts to avoid getting saddle sore.
Bike security is important too. Invest in solid locks. One should be fine if you’re only leaving your bike for a short time but consider two locks – one for the wheels and one for the frame – if you have an expensive bike or quick release wheels and need to park up for a longer period. Register your bike with bikeregister.com or get it police marked in case it does get stolen.
If you can, please do support the many local bike shops in Hammersmith & Fulham. #HFShopLocal
Navigating the basics
Check out British Cycling’s Commute Smart videos, a series of step-by-step cycling videos covering all aspects of commuting by bike, to help you navigate the roads safely and confidently.
Bikeworks, a social enterprise dedicated to making cycling accessible to everyone including those with disabilities, have been in partnership with H&F Council to provide cycling training and bike maintenance courses for local residents in the past. Subject to funding, they may not be able to continue with this, but they are still running their All Ability Cycling Club with adapted bikes and two-wheelers at Little Wormwood Scrubs. You can find out more and pre-book sessions via: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Explore with confidence
Hammersmith & Fulham council moved quickly to create temporary cycling infrastructure - new bike lanes and widening and extending existing ones as well as closing off notorious rat runs to traffic, prioritising cyclists and pedestrians. This should make life easier for you to cycle around the borough.
Cycle lanes are likely to be busier than usual and have changed place in the road. As a result, disability activists are urging all new (and experienced) cyclists to avoid take extra care and avoid pavements, even if they are apprehensive about the roads. Pavements must be reserved for people with disabilities, who are being hard hit by the COVID restrictions. The number of children and adults using pavements for cycling and scooting is a rising challenge and can lead to injury, so it's best to get professional advice or training if you're not feeling confident on keeping yourself and others safe.
Plan your route before you leave home, especially if you’re not familiar with the cycle routes. TfL has up-to-date cycle lanes. Charlie also suggests going out once or twice with an experienced cyclist and following their lead until you get the hang of it. “Be confident on the road. Command the lane and don’t feel pressured to move out of the way. It’s up to the car to give you the correct space. The majority of road users are used to sharing the road with cyclists now.”
Casey Abaraonye, borough coordinator of HF Cyclists and co-owner of OMA Bikes, recommends exploring your local area to build confidence in your cycling, starting by navigating quieter side streets. The HF Cyclists website is a great resource for local cyclists, with information on bike maintenance, cycle training, group cycling events (see photo), and suggestions for local rides. For a gentle family ride, Casey suggests riding out to Wormwood Scrubs, an often overlooked nature reserve. South of Fulham is the Wandle Trail that runs from Wandsworth to Mitcham taking in parkland and wildlife.
What bike should I buy?
Due to the sudden rise in popularity of cycling, many bikes shops are out of stock right now so if you don’t already own a bike, your best bet is to rent one. Try Santander Bike, Lime e-bikes or Brompton Bike Hire.
If you’re looking to buy a good starter bike, be prepared for a long wait, but here Charlie gives a breakdown of what you should look for.
City bikes are practical and offer a more relaxed and comfortable ride. They usually come with mudguards and belts rather than chains (cleaner), have bigger tyres and more agile steering so you can get from A to B faster.
Hybrid bikes are a cross between road bikes and mountain bikes. They are more relaxed, combining city and track mobility, so are great for commuting longer distances.
E-bikes provide a gentler, less arduous ride that allows older people and those who are less fit to still be active and cycle together with others. If you intend to commute to work or meetings, then an e-bike means you’ll arrive fresh, crisp and ready for action.
For those looking to cycle as a more serious hobby or specialist pursuit, then road bikes (think Tour de France) or mountain bikes might appeal.
Whatever your level of cycling ability, there’s probably no better time to get on your bike. Whether it’s for some light exercise, a family fun ride, short local trips or longer commutes, build up your confidence by doing and turn that occasional bike ride into a regular habit.